That’s an attention-grabbing headline, isn’t it? It would be just a headline if I hadn’t recently had a hospital conversation with Jim. (Actually, it was a couple of years ago that I wrote this. But it seemed to to share it again.)
Jim’s been in and out of the hospital. He has good support from his own pastor, so I didn’t stop in his room. Even though he looked up when I walked past, I went into the stairwell and down three steps. And stopped.
I knew I had to go back. I’m grateful that I did.
I introduced myself. We chatted about some people and work that we have in common. And then he said, “I thank people for their service.”
I waited. He continued: “The other day, I thanked the person who changed the sheets on my bed. She said, ‘no one ever thanked me for that.’”
We talked about the way that his words shaped her day.
“I thank everyone who comes in to help me,” he said. “Everyone.”
One time Paul was talking about relating to each other in community. He talked about putting on compassion like a cloak, along with kindness and humility and gentleness. He talked about loving one another. He mentioned the importance of forgiveness. And then he says, simply, “And be thankful.”
We talk often about gratitude, about waking up and going to sleep thinking about something we are grateful for. But in this text I think that Paul is not talking just about an attitude, just about an intention. I think he may be saying, “and thank people.” For doing special things, yes. But also for doing things that are part of the job, part of the relationship, part of life. It’s an opportunity to express our awareness that the other person is a person.
As I walked out of his room, Jim said, “Thank you for your service.” I knew he would. But I smiled anyway. Because I think he actually means it every time he says it.
And maybe we can, too.